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July 31, 2018


The Washington Center for the Performing Arts had a record 232 guests for the 3rd Annual CENTER Stage Awards & Gala on Thursday evening. Guests enjoyed a staged street-side cocktail hour with live music in anticipation of the big reveal inside the Main Stage. The Center production staff had transformed the lower Orchestra seating with a 4,160 sq. ft. stage above the seats! The beautifully decorated dinner venue created a whimsical scene that certainly inspired the theme of the night: a celebration of the performing arts. The Washington Center is proud to announce that thanks to the very supportive and enthusiastic guests, the evening raised over $113,000.

“This was an extraordinary evening of generosity and love for the arts,” says executive director, Jill Barnes. “Thanks to our sponsors, community, artistic partners, and the 53 volunteers that gave their time and energy to make this evening truly special, we are celebrating all that was raised to continue to bring joy and interactive entertainment to our region through this jewel that is our theater.”

Sponsors truly help bring the magic of the evening together. The Washington Center wants to thank Ascent Audiology & Hearing, Olympia Federal Savings, Weatherly Inn, and TwinStar Credit Union for supporting such a significant event. Regional actor Ann Flannigan was the emcee for the evening with well renowned auctioneer Ron Hippe. Washington Center Board Member, Ali Vega was not only a sponsor for the event, but took the stage to reach out to the audience for the Fund-a-Need portion of the evening, bringing in $46,000 for the next phase of growth for the theater. These donations are the beginning of an exciting project to replace the 16-year-old audio equipment with a state-of-the art sound system that will truly upgrade the audience experience and bring the Washington Center up-to date as a top-notch facility. Ultimately these upgrades attract touring artists as well as locals and visitors to the Olympia area.

One of the many highlights of the evening was the awards for “Excellence in the Arts.” This year the awards were presented to Olympia Family Theater for Achievement in the Arts and James L. This for Commitment to the Arts. The audience enjoyed stories from Jen Ryle who, along with Samantha Chandler, created Olympia Family Theater in 2006. Olympia Family Theater is helping raise a new generation that loves the performing arts by providing quality theatrical productions for young audiences and, as Ryle noted, “for anyone who has ever been a kid.”

James (Jim) L. This has been active in the local arts community for decades. He was a co-founder
for Opus Seventy-One, and through the Capital Area Association of the Performing Arts (CAAPA), secured the initial funding for the building of the Washington Center. He produced and directed musicals at Abbey Theater, Olympia Little Theater and Capital High School as well as helped establish Harlequin productions. Jim has served on numerous community boards including the Washington Center for the Performing Arts, Harlequin Productions, Ballet Northwest, Friends of evergreen Library and Safeplace. He is a shining star in our community and currently works with the Prime Time Players at Jubilee in Lacey.

Throughout the evening, guests were treated to a wide variety of artists from jazz guitarist, Tarik Bentlemsani, to Debbi’s Dance, to organist Sharon Stearnes, and delighted by acrobatic silk artists Marlo Winter and Karli Stewart. “As a performing arts space, we feel it’s important to showcase the talent in our own community and provide thoughtful pieces of art throughout the evening to reenergize and inspire our guests,” says Barnes. “This year’s gala accomplished all of this and more. We’re deeply grateful to everyone who attended and contributed – continuing to make the arts a priority in all of our lives.”

For more information about upcoming events please visit or call the Box Office at 360-753-8586.

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